Lawmakers tackle hemp regulations

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The leaders of Florida’s hemp industry are upset over a legislative plan they claim will hurt their businesses. The measure’s sponsor says the bill is about “staying in  their lane.”

The conflict is over how hemp products are defined in state law.

Henry Calix is the founder and CEO of Weedsies, an online hemp distribution company. He is concerned that the level of THC in hemp products that will be required for use in the product will affect his business and the economy.

“Over a hundred thousand jobs will be lost overnight because of this bill. Businesses and small businesses would go bankrupt,” Calix said.

Calix believes the proposed legislation needs more time and research behind it.

Senate Bill 1676 and House Bill 1475 are aiming to revise the requirements that hemp extract must meet before being distributed and sold in Florida.

The House bill’s sponsor, William Robinson, R-Bradenton, in a press conference called this the “stay in your lane” bill.

“You have a medical marijuana system in one lane and the hemp system in another lane and the lanes have gotten mixed together. This bill simply realigns those lanes into two clear lanes.”

Carlos Hermida, owner of Tampa-based Chillum Mushroom and Hemp Dispensary, says the medical marijuana industry is lobbying against hemp companies and trying to put them out of business.

“It would completely erase the demand for any hemp products. It’s not like these bills outright ban hemp products but they would regulate them in such a way that customers would no longer want to buy them,” Hermida said.

Jay McCormick is the president at Florida Healthy Alternatives Association. He opposes the legislation but agrees that hemp distributors can make new and safer ways to sell hemp products that would help children.

“We are in agreement that more can be done to regulate these products like child proof packaging, limiting access of these products to persons over the age of 21, and marketing guidance,” McCormick said.

The Senate bill’s sponsor, Collen Burton, R-Lakeland, believes this legislation can protect Floridians from the dangers of hemp extract products.

“Floridians should feel safe with products being sold in our state. They deserve to have confidence knowing that hemp extract products are not marketed in a way that can be confusing or misleading especially for children,” Burton said.

The measures are moving through the committees with the Senate bill in the Fiscal Policy Committee and the House bill referred to the Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee.